Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Letters to bacteria

Dear Bifidobacterium breve,

You know I have a special place in my heart for you. You have always been my star bug surviving in whatever situation I put you in like a champ, I wish your siblings would behave as well as you do! That being said I have to bring up your recent bad behavior. It seems that lately you have been falling in with the wrong crowd. While I appreciate your domain's* diversity and recognize that it makes a total mockery of what human beings consider diverse I ask that you remain in pure culture and only hang out with the yogurt cultures that are intentionally put in with you. I know this seems harsh but how can you shine if you are overgrown by some bully organism? And poor V, she has worked so hard to learn how to treat you just how you like it and just when she is getting all independent and confident in her abilities you throw her this curve.

And don't you try and pretend you aren't contaminated, even my lab assistant was able to tell the difference between you and the impostor organism. Is this a ploy to drive us insane, because it is working!? I am glad that V decided to test you out before moving ahead with her project, she was on to you and your sneaky tricks. And that was very sneaky, behaving for me and not her making me think it was all a fluke. You will be in so much trouble if your stock** is contaminated! There had best be no other organisms growing on your plates currently in the incubator, and don't you think I won't check, you have definitely earned yourself some time under the microscope.

V and I would really like to get past this rebellious phase of yours and be able to get some real research done. Don't you want your name in the journals with us writing about how wonderful you are? Well that is never going to happen if you keep stalling us like this! So please, just go back to behaving like the wonderful organism I know you are.


First picture: Image of B. breve taken through a light microscope, 1000X magnification. Notice the irregular shapes and sizes of the cells (the little dots and lines), Bifidobacteria tend to be irregularly shaped rods.

Second picture: Image of unknown contaminant, same details. Notice the uniform perfectly formed rods, this is a pretty good indicator that this is not a Bifidobacteria sample.

*Based on genetics all lifeforms currently fall into one of three groups called domains, bacteria, archaea and eukaryota. Bacteria are the most diverse group, in comparison human beings are all the same, to me it shows how ridiculous prejudices based on genetic traits (like skin pigmentation and the like) are given how infinitesimal the differences really are.

**A stock refers to a stored sample of an organism, there are several different methods of storing them including freeze drying (like the yeast in the Super Yeast post), and frozen stocks (aka glycerol stocks). I prefer working with frozen stocks, which are prepared by mixing glycerol into a pure sample of an organism in broth and keeping it in a -75 C freezer. The glycerol makes it so when the sample freezes it has less ice crystals, ice crystals are sharp and can shred the cells you are trying to save.


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